Alman Dave Quiboquibo (ialman) wrote,
Alman Dave Quiboquibo

feeling the pressure

i probably shouldn't even bother imposing my thoughts on other people when i have nothing important to contribute to the matter, but since someone posted a question on the multiply version of this blog about the disaster that is the janina san miguel Q&A at the binibining pilipinas 2008, i might as well invite attention to myself by jumping into the fray.

yes, the Q&A had me in stitches when i first viewed it on youtube (i don't have television so i didn't get to see this live). she had me at "no, i don't feel any pressure right now" and "good eyve-ning". what is interesting for me is that other people have viewed the matter differently: so different that they think it isn't something to laugh about. the post-colonial view has been that janina, and other beauty contestants who've bungled their interviews and elicited laughter as a result of their mangling the english language, shouldn't be faulted nor ridiculed for not being able to speak english flawlessly. there was, and has always been, undue pressure on janina's kind to express their thoughts in the colonizer's tongue. the laughter, as well as the conclusions that janina is not very bright precisely because of her less-than-stellar english skills, have been viewed as smacking of colonial elitism. to quote my friend iton's quip back in 2005: "hindi lahat ng magaling mag-english, matalino."

i agree with this view in many ways, and i have blogged many times in the past that mastery of english is not at all a gauge of one's intelligence. i have nothing but complete and utter respect for friends like eugene evasco who write and teach in filipino. but i guess that's precisely the issue. eugene's filipino is flawless, just as my english is. the trouble is that there are far too many filipinos who veil their limitations by arguing that it is not necessary to master english because it is not their language. but they probably cannot speak filipino just as well. i'm not even saying that mixing tagalog and english is evil per se, but what i think is that any given language has a set of rules. for example, in reaction to old gossip, ara mina once said: "ewan ko nga ba kung bakit na-bo-brought up pa yan." the use of the prefix "na" already results in the conjugation of the verb bring, and it should have been "na-bi-bring up".

the trouble is that in the philippines, english is so widely-spoken that it hardly feels like a foreign language. i will be the first to say that i learned to speak english ahead of tagalog. hollywood movies do not have subtitles here. all the major broadsheets are in english. there are more books written by filipinos in english than there are in filipino (okay, i might be wrong, but given the relative size of the audience, that's probably accurate). english is around us, and no one is asking for translations. it is because we understand english. so how come we have difficulty expressing ourselves in that language?

going back to janina san miguel, i really think that i am laughing at her because my english is good. i don't laugh at anyone whose spanish or whose french is bad because i can't do any better. nor will i say that someone who doesn't speak cebuano well is stupid because mine isn't too great either. but she could have spoken in filipino (listen to paolo bediones saying in the background: pwede mag-tagalog). but would it have made a difference? janina says that she really didn't hear the question. that's a lie. she already began by saying "my family's role for me is very important." then in the end, after making all these excuses that she's only 17 and that she didn't expect to come "from one of the tough ten", she forgot the original question and concluded: "but i said, dot, my pamily is the most important persons in my life." in filipino, it would have been "ang pamilya ko ang pinakamalagang mga tao sa aking buhay." it would not have answered the question about her family's role in her being a candidate to binibini. so talk about handling pressure and exuding confidence; she didn't really do too well, buckling as she did, not just with the language but with her composure. i listened to her response to a question in showbiz central while having early dinner at the napoli restaurant, and even her filipino sounds irritating. she has this tiny voice which barrels my ears, and her diction, either in english or filipino, is really rather painful.

so why did she win? is it because philippine pageants, because we take them too seriously, are a national joke? i think differently. the bb. pilipinas winners in the past have been exceedingly smart and eloquent. they impressed everyone by showing that they aren't just parading bodies; their beauties aren't just veneers, but shine from within. but then again, did they bring home the crown? not exactly. so i guess miss stella marquez araneta, who has always hand-picked the winners (my friend nats who handles pageant candidates tells me this -- yeah, even the bb. pilipinas can't escape corruption), must have figured: yeah, we've been sending these smart young ladies, and they flopped. we might as well try our luck with the girl who may not be the brightest, but might just get their attention with her youtube fame.
Tags: binibining pilipinas, language
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